The 43rd Annual International Conference of the Society for Psychical Research, Leicester, 2019
Eyes closed, I held the folded piece of paper to my forehead. Nothing. A dried sheet of bleached wood pulp at room temperature. Then close to my ear, as if it might speak to me. Now, I began to get something: it ‘felt’ like ‘grow’ or ‘growing’. I was not sure whether I was to try and sense a letter or a full word – the instructions had been delivered in Chinese, with simultaneous translation. The ‘g’ seemed important, but it stretched itself out into ‘gr’, then ‘grrr’. I thought about the different sounds that seemed to be forming in my mind and wrote them down – ‘g’, ‘w’, ‘G’, ‘O’ – but came back to ‘gr’ – perhaps the word was ‘green’ – but I felt sure of ‘gr’, just the sound ‘gr’. Now we were instructed to open our eyes and look at the piece of paper. I returned to the visible spectrum and the conference room at the Holiday Inn, Leicester. There were about thirty people in the room with me, all now opening their eyes and unfolding pieces of paper. My piece had a large ‘R’ on it. Not bad, I thought, for a first attempt.
Bingo Wu had been demonstrating the technique he uses to teach blind children to ‘see’ using non-ordinary means at a school in China. It was the second time he had presented at an SPR conference, but the first time he had taken us through his methods. The process was deceptively simple: an initial briefing, meditation using guided imagery and then our own attempts at sensing what was written on the paper – the unusual element, at least for parapsychology, was allowing the guinea pigs to touch the target, with the suggestion that it might be able to communicate with us.
While Leicester would not be described as anybody’s ‘wonderland’, the 2019 conference of the Society for Psychical Research would certainly take its seventy-six attendees ‘through the looking glass’, with twenty-eight presentations on subjects ranging from DMT to NDE, with EVP and RV in-between. The Conference Committee had invited several speakers: Dr Steve Taylor took the evening slot on the first day, Friday; ‘Psychic Detective’ Chris Robinson spoke on Saturday afternoon; Maj. (Ret’d) Paul H. Smith, PhD, had the Saturday evening.
Chris Robinson stole the thunder on Saturday afternoon with ‘What Psychic Experiences have Taught Me’. Robinson, who was born with a congenital heart condition, died of a heart attack, aged 35. He had what I might call an ‘actual death experience’, during which he was told ‘you don’t need to breath, you’re coming with us’. But he did not want to go with ‘them’: ‘if we let you go back, there is a condition, you will have to live in both worlds’ and so he did. From then on he had premonitions, among other things, of the Lockerbie Bombing (1988), the kidnapping of baby Alexandra Griffiths (1990), the murder of Jill Dando (1999), the 9/11 Islamic terrorist attacks (2001) and World War III (TBA). After Lockerbie, the powers-that-be took him to one side and, with some hint of threat, said ‘you could be a security risk… or you could be an amazing security asset’. He was taken seriously by the police, Customs and Excise (now Revenue and Customs), and the Security Service (MI5), and had his own telephone hotline installed. In November 1999, he dreamt of hijacked aeroplanes being deliberately crashed into tall buildings, but his warnings failed to prevent the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York two years later. In consequence of repeated premonitions involving Muslim terrorists, he claimed that he has been effectively ‘sacked’ for being Islamophobic. World War III, he stated, will be a direct consequence of this sort of denial.
But there was still more thunder to be stolen. Standing in front of a slide boldly proclaiming ‘The Real X-Files’, was perhaps the closest to an actual Fox Mulder that we were ever likely to see in the form of retired US Army Major, Dr Paul H. Smith. A veteran of the Star Gate Project, the US Government’s once secret psychic spying programme, Smith had been trained by remote viewing founders Ingo Swann and Dr Harold E. Puthoff, and went on to write the project’s Controlled Remote Viewing (CRV) training manual. For Smith, remote viewing is ‘perceiving real impressions, concepts and sensory data from a distant or hidden target using only the powers of the mind (ESP)’. Furthermore, it is a learnable skill ‘based on an innate ability everyone has’; however, he stressed the importance of adhering to the protocols that he has helped develop. These prescribe that the viewer should not have any information about the target beforehand (blind); no one associated with the remote viewer should have any information about the target (double-blind); that the target must be verifiable; and that the subject must have feedback on the results. He gave us some examples of hits, including a detailed sketch of what looked like the Taj Mahal and the target, which was the Taj Mahal. Operational hits included precognition of the Iraqi attack on USS Stark during the Iran-Iraq War in 1987, when an Iraqi Mirage fighter jet seriously damaged the US frigate with two Exocet missiles, causing the deaths of 37 crewmen.
The full article was published as Leo Ruickbie, ‘Leicester Through the Looking Glass: The 43rd Annual International Conference of the Society for Psychical Research, Leicester, 2019’, Paranormal Review, 92 (2019).